Spider-Man: the NEW Animated Series #5-“Keeping Secrets” Review

 Spider-Man has a difficult decison to make when confronting the new cat burglar in town, Talon. Either bring her in, or continue to let her date his best friend!Credits

Screenplay By: Rick Suvalle Directed By: Vincent Edwards

Animation By: Mainframe Guest Starring: Eve as The Talon/ Cheyenne, Ed Asner as Officer Barr and Jennifer Hale as Newswoman

THE PLOT: A new acrobatic thief, dubbed “Talon” by the media, starts making waves in the museum robberies market. She manages to evade Spider-Man well enough, but Peter’s troubles really come into play when he realizes that she’s Harry new girlfriend.

LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Man attempts to figure out why Talon is a criminal and reason with her, but she’s not willing to listen. A police shootout has Talon take a bullet in the leg, and she dissappears. Later we see her break up with Harry on the phone, and Peter tries to pick up the pieces of his broken hearted friend through conversation and doughnuts.

MY THOUGHTS: This was a mixed bag, exhibiting a lot of potential and delivering on some of it, but managing to still fall flat in other respects.  The idea is a bit of an expansion on the concept of Peter’s best friend’s father is his arch enemy, yet still being sort of a trope with the new girlfriend of the friend being not all that she seemed. It’s still an interesting enough idea, and Ian Ziering does a really great job as Harry in this episode. Part of the problem is that the overall plot is a bit rote in conception, and this show has a tendency to act according to the basics of the idea.

Another problem is that the character of Talon/Cheyenne isn’t really shown to be much more than the sum of her parts. Aside from being an adrenaline junkie in high rise sports, we really don’t know anything about her that can make us invest in her character. That bit about her being a “trust fund baby” was most certainly a lie, but as we know where the money does come from (which as Cheyenne she doesn’t really show off much of it) there’s not much to look in to. What does make her tick? Does she steal for the thrill of it? How does she even feel about Harry? These things are presented to us and come off as an intriguing invitation to a mystery, but the episode doesn’t explain any of it and you can’t help but feel frustrated by the end.

On top of that, the special guest celebrity voice for Talon, Eve, was not very strong. From the get go her voice did not match the design of the character. While that’s not automatically a bad thing, I couldn’t help but be taken out of the performance every time she spoke. It’s different with Neil Patrick Harris. I can recognize his voice when I want to, but for the rest of the time his voice for Peter Parker works well enough that it’s not distracting at all. Everytime Talon spoke, my mind would say “No, that’s Eve.” I suppose it being 2003, Eve was a viable choice for a guest character. The thing is, Talon was originally supposed to be the Black Cat. Once Eve was cast, they decided to change the character completely. I think they missed a real opportunity for a love triangle. There’s no romantic tension with Talon and Spider-Man after it’s revelaed that Cheyenne is going with Harry. If it were Felicia Hardy, Peter could feel conflicted as Spider-Man for having his friend date a villain while grappling with feelings of attraction he has for the Cat in the first place. I think the show could have pulled that off well enough. As it stands, because the character is changed, there’s no tension between her and Spider-Man, and the character isn’t that likable in the first place, it feels like wasted potential.

 The main point is this: they shouldn’t have cast Eve. I mean, she does a decent enough job when she’s just playing Cheyenne. I actually like her whenever she’s with the three main leads. It’s when she confronts Spider-Man and pulls the whole snarky attitude thing. Eve’s voice doesn’t feel natural enough to convey the senses of condescension and apathy that she gives Spider-Man, making it feel both forced and annoying. It gets worse in the third act when she says over and over again “You don’t know me! Don’t even act like you know me!” It’s a bad performance coupled with bad writing. Why is she angry? All it does is add another layer to her that we won’t go beyond.

So there were good points and bad points to the villain. On the plus side, Harry had some great moments in this episode that were fresh and interesting. None of the “YOU KILLED MY FATHER SPIDER-MAN” stuff appears, and he genuinely has fallen for Cheyenne. They don’t really explain how or why, but that actually doesn’t matter. The point is that he has, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. Unlike the bravado spewing jock of the past few episodes, this Harry shows a deeper side by revealing his insecurities in a relationship. The best scene is when he comes to Peter just to talk about how nervous he feels around Cheyenne. It’s a scene that doesn’t require any of the trappings of it being a Spider-Man cartoon. It’s just two guys in a real life situation. It reminded me of the only worthwhile scene from the season 4 episode of the 90s show “Partners“, where Harry was looking to talk to Peter and he had to bail out due to him being Spider-Man. It’s virtually the same scene more or less, and it accomplishes so much. Despite their differences, Harry and Peter are each other’s best friend and depend on each other at one point or another in their lives. The really nice thing about this is that this episode manages to still have Peter as the main protagonist. He’s not a run-of-the-mill superhero, he’s a conflicted person. His difficulty in approaching the situation takes center stage and it was very well written all told. When he first realizes that Talon and Cheyenne are one in the same, he approaches it like he would as Spider-Man with hostility. The catch is, at the time he’s Peter Parker, and the four of them are at dinner. Later on after a very heartfelt cry for help from Harry, Spider-Man approaches Talon as though he were Peter and very nearly reveals how he knows as much as he does about her. This is totally believable for this Spider-Man. He’s a somewhat experienced hero but still takes each situation one at a time. He’s also still 18 years old.

There are still a few things that kind of keep things from being better. As mentioned before, why exactly did Harry and Cheyenne hook up? Harry just sees her briefly at a bungee jump, and we jump cut to weeks later apparently. Also, the whole spiel about Harry being a serial dater and going through girl after girl rings completley hollow, as this has never been remotely established, nor shown on-screen before. Peter’s also really loose with his secret identity. He shows off at a rock climb, and he just holds his costume around whenever he’s home with the windows open. Back on the plus side, I though Mary Jane had a decent outing in this episode. She wasn’t flirting with Peter, Harry or even Cheyenne (as far as I know) and came off kind of funny at times. Her annoyance at Peter’s supposed jealousy was well played.

 As said before, this was a mixed bag. The first 2/3rds were not very special, but the third act makes good on what came before it and really shows off some nice writing. Eve aside, all of the main three leads did excellent jobs and there was solid character exploration. However, Talon was still a major part of the plot and had a lot of screentime. If only she was at least written better, Eve’s performance wouldn’t matter as much.

3/5 music videos

All images taken from Marvel.toonzone.net

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